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Monday, 15 September 2003
Page: 20024


Mr RUDD (3:35 PM) —The Prime Minister asked this question: is it reasonable to expect that he would read a document such as this provided by the British Joint Intelligence Committee? I say yes, Prime Minister, because you were on the verge of taking this country to war. The problem with this document is that it torpedoed amidships a large part of the rationale you would put to the parliament and the people for going to war, and you knew it. It is unique in this parliament for a Prime Minister not to take a censure motion on a question of national security. He goes fleeing from the chamber and he refuses to engage in this serious and substantive censure motion on national security and whether this government can be trusted on these matters.

We have seen today the classic John Howard reinterpretation of history. There were two reasons advanced by this government for going to war: firstly, it was necessary to reduce the threat of terrorism to Australia and, secondly, it was necessary to reduce the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction through terrorists. The import of this document for the people of Australia is that it blows apart both those arguments. This is a document that was delivered to Australian intelligence one month before this country committed itself to war. That is why it is important.

We have a Prime Minister with the gall to stand before the parliament and say that the reason for going to Iraq was to liberate an oppressed people. Talk about retrospective humanitarian justification! Did we hear that in advance? When they tabled this legal opinion justifying their case for going to war, was there any shred of documentation or discussion of that? No, there was not. It has been invented after the fact, and the reason why it has been invented after the fact is that this Prime Minister—man of steel, Howard of Zimbabwe, chair of the Commonwealth troika on Zimbabwe—knows that, if humanitarian intervention was the justification for Iraq, we would be on the gates of Harare today. So do not come at us with that codswallop; come to the actual core of the argument itself!

Did we notice the slow stripping away of the Prime Minister's defence today? It began with him saying, `I don't know what you're talking about, Leader of the Opposition,' and went from `There may have been a document produced by the JIC in London,' through to—what happened then?—`It could've gone into the mix.' By the answer to the fourth question, it got down to: Australian intelligence contingency planning `drew upon' the advice of the British Joint Intelligence Committee. By the end of question time, do you know what the Prime Minister was saying? He was saying that it was part of the paraphernalia which was available to his office and to his officials in shaping their decision to go to war!

It is like getting blood from a stone to try to get the truth from this Prime Minister. You have to extract it bit by bit. A simple yes and a simple no—to the vacant chair—would have been all that was required. At the end of it all, the key question asked by the Leader of the Opposition remains unanswered—that is, what was the intelligence and evidence base upon which you chose to reject the considered advice of the supreme intelligence body of the United Kingdom in reaching your decision for going to war? The reason that you do not answer the question is that you do not have an answer.

And then we come to the core arguments the Prime Minister advances. He has talked at length about the fact that he has covered off this question of an increase in the terrorism threat arising from the war in Iraq, and he has tried to cover that off in terms of what was contained in a couple of travel advisories in relation to a couple of countries in the Middle East. Now that you have deigned to return to the chamber, Prime Minister, let me tell you that the increased terrorism threat has everything to do with what was happening in Iraq then and now—when we see al-Qaeda returning to the country, creating merry hell, possibly responsible for the death of Sergio de Mello, possibly responsible for the assassination of Ayatollah Hakim in Najaf the other day; Indonesia becoming a radicalising force as far as terrorism is concerned; and the organisation of terrorism activity against Australians. That is one element of it.

The second element, Prime Minister, you have no answer for at all. This document says that if you invade Iraq it will increase the risk of proliferating biological and chemical weapons to terrorists. Tell me this, Prime Minister: where in this parliament have you ever admitted that?


The SPEAKER —The member for Griffith will address his remarks through the chair.


Mr RUDD —Where have you admitted it? He remains silent. I ask the Prime Minister, `Where have you admitted this?'


The SPEAKER —The member for Griffith will address his remarks through the chair!


Mr RUDD —Mr Speaker, having the Prime Minister in the chamber makes this a unique opportunity to pose the question—for the simple reason that he has never done so. You were told about the increased risk of proliferating biological and chemical weapons to terrorists—you were told about it in this document—and you did not tell the Australian people. That is the second core element. This is not an occasional utterance. We have the Howard government using this on 15 occasions. The Prime Minister himself used this on 30 different occasions in arguing his case for going to war, and his ministers have used the same argument. It is not an accidental argument. You lie censured for this because you have misled the Australian people yet again. (Time expired)

Question put:

That the motion (Mr Crean's) be agreed to.